Local favourite Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr stormed into an 8min 50sec lead after the opening 227km selective section of the 15thHa’il Nissan Rally, round one of the 2020 Saudi Desert Rally Championship, on Wednesday afternoon.
The Toyota Hilux Overdrive crew carded a time of 2hr 21min 59sec for the stage that started and finished near Baqaa to seal a comfortable six-minute overnight lead over the Saudi Hummer driver Saleh Alabdelali and his experienced former WRC navigator Ola Floene.
“Everything is well,” said Al-Rajhi. “We lead but we were taking it easy. The most important thing is to finish without any mistakes and to take the double points at the start of the championship. Michael is doing a good job. Everything was perfect.”
Saleh Alabdelali added: “The stages are very nice I had a good speed for 50km and then we had some big dunes.After then I had some speed and then I was cautious. Ola is with me in this car for the first time and he is happy. We had a big jump and he likes the car. It is a good start for the Yazeed Racing Team with first and second. Tomorrow I can push.”
The veteran Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovakian navigator Marek Sykora came home in third place and Ahmed Al-Shammeri and Ziad Al-Harbi were a distant fourth in their Nissan and topped the T2 standings for series production cross-country vehicles.
Fifty cars, one truck, 18 motorcycles and 30 quads actually started the four-stage event being organised by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF).
The Al-Balooshi brothers of Sultan and Mohammed dominated the opening stage in the motorcycle category on their KTMs, Sultan finishing the special 2min 59sec in front of his Emirati relation. Anas Al-Ruhayani led the Saudi challenge in third place.
Mohammed Al-Balooshi said: “Today was a good stage for me. I opened. It is good to do these kind of races to prepare for the bigger events, like Dakar 2021. I opened the whole stage until the finish and I am proud of that. Sitting second now behind my brother. But I am happy with the one-two for us.”
Yamahas dominated the quad section and Sufyan Al-Omar set the fastest time from Riyadh Al-Oraifan, Abdulsalem Al-Hamam and Abdulaziz Al-Shayban.
The rally is running under the chairmanship of H.R.H. Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of the Ha’il Regional Development Authority in co-operation with the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage and the General Authority for Sport.
The event runs under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Saud Al-Saud, Governor of Ha’il, and His Royal Highness Faisal Bin Fahed Bin Moqren Al-Saud.
The second of the four desert selective sections starts at 08.00hrs on Thursday.
Ha’il Nissan Rally – positions after SS1 (cars – unofficial @14.35hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 2hr 21min 59sec
2. Saleh Alabdelali (SAU)/Ola Floene (NOR) Hummer 2hr 27min 59sec
3. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo 2hr 30min 49sec
4. Ahmed Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Ziad Al-Harbi (SAU) Nissan (T2) 2hr 37min 17sec
5. Abdullah Al-Shegawi (SAU)/Waleed Al-Shegawi (SAU) Nissan 2hr 39min 48sec
6. Majed Ibrahim Al-Tuwijri (SAU)/Raed Al-Mazied (SAU) Can-Am (T3) 2hr 41min 01sec
7. Muneef Al-Salmani (SAU) Abdulsalem Al-Nammash (SAU) Nissan 2hr 41min 44sec
8. Saleh Al-Said (SAU)/Yasser Al-Shammeri (SAU) Can-Am (T3) 2hr 42min 55sec
9. Sami Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Abdullah Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 2hr 43min 09sec
10. Yousef Al-Suwaidi (SAU)/Abdullah Al-Sugairi (SAU) Nissan (T2) 2hr 44min 00sec, etc
Ha’il Nissan Rally – positions after SS1 (bikes - unofficial):
1.Sultan Al-Balooshi (UAE) KTM 3hr 20min 07sec
2. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (UAE) KTM 3hr 23min 06sec
3. Anas Al-Ruhyni (SAU) KTM 3hr 27min 37sec
4. Rashed Ali Hassan (UAE) Honda 3hr 35min 42sec
5. Fahad Al-Hijab (SAU) KTM 3hr 38min 51sec
6. Ahmed Al-Nasser (SAU) KTM 3hr 46min 223sec, etc
Ha’il Nissan Rally – positions after SS1 (quads - unofficial):
1. Sufyan Al-Omar (SAU) Yamaha 3hr 11min 38sec
2. Riyadh Al-Oraifan (SAY) Yamaha 3hr 13min 51sec
3. Abdulsalem Hamam (SAU) Yamaha 3hr 27min 34sec
4. Abdulaziz Al-Shayban (SAU) Yamaha 3hr 31min 34sec
5. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi (SAU) Yamaha 3hr 33min 31sec
6. Sultan Al-Masoud (SAU) Yamaha 3hr 35min 38sec, etc
Ha’il Nissan Rally – positions after SS1 (truck - unofficial):
1. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna/Osama Al-Sanad/Raed Abo Theeb (SAU) Mercedes TBA
Source: Neil Perkins / Ha'il Nissan Rally press release